Perhaps, the most oft-prescribed advice in the B2C marketing space is connect with your customers. This makes perfect sense because B2C buyers act on emotions. But when it comes to the “boring” B2B industry, we are prone to assume that B2B customers are driven only by logic, facts and ROI, to the point of being almost emotionless. This is only a half-truth. And if you continue to build your marketing strategies around this half-truth, you’re doing yourself and your brand a disservice.
If you’re someone who likes to see numbers, there are studies to back this up. One recent one "From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands" by Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and Google, offers some amazing findings, showing that, in fact, emotions are vital to B2B marketing success.
I’ve written before about the importance of single meaningful connections in the B2B space. However, B2B brands often struggle with making such connections with their customers. The biggest reason is B2B products/services aren’t exactly the kind to attract media flashbulbs. They make for topics that are often business-specific or technical in nature. This is why most B2B marketers can’t figure out how to make their content interesting enough for customers to want to read it. This is especially true when there’s already a tidal wave of content out there.
Stop thinking B2B, think P2P
To make content marketing work for your brand, you need to change the way you look at B2B customers. Sure, in a B2B transaction, you’re dealing with a business. But you have to remember that every business in the world is made up of people. Irrespective of whether it’s B2B or B2C, business transactions take place between people -- and that’s where the concept of P2P (people-to-people) stems from.
To engage people, your content needs to address the “human” side of businesses. Just like consumers, an increasing number of business buyers conduct some form of online research before purchasing. In fact, according to a recent Acquity Group report, the number’s impressively high, at 94 percent. With the enormous amount of content produced daily, you can’t rely on cut-and-dry marketing anymore.
Having said that, there remains a subtle difference between the emotions that motivate B2C buyers and the ones that drive B2B. B2B marketing agency, Proteus B2B, puts it perfectly:
"B2B marketing is not 'emotionless.' While B2B prospects are generally not moved by common B2C motivators, like impulse or status, different individual emotional motivators apply. For example, the fear of making the wrong decision, the level of confidence in the forecasted ROI, the level of trust established in the seller’s people -- all of these are very real emotional motivators in the B2B world. Nike’s Just do it wouldn’t play too well in the B2B world."
Here are some ways to use content marketing to engage your B2B audience.
Talk to them in a more 'human' way.
Many of us cling to the idea that writing for business needs to have a certain formal tone to it. It’s time to put this thinking on the back burner. To strike a chord with your audience, your content must use a friendly, jargon-free voice. After all, your content is meant for people and not machines. So drop that mechanical tone, and be more real.
Tell them your story.
Storytelling is the glue that connects readers to content. Treating your audience as real people is not enough; you need to reveal the human side of your brand as well.
Solve their problems.
Identify the problems and challenges that plague your target buyers. If your content provides answers to the questions your audience needs answers for, they’ll stop and listen.
Business people love to be educated about anything that might help them work faster, better and more efficiently. White papers, how-tos, webinars and even slideshares are all excellent mediums to share with your audience. These can be about best practices or new skills related to your industry, or even about the kind of products/services you sell. However, remember not to overdo the promotional bit. When your content offers real value, and less selling, it will be more appreciated.
Brands in the B2B space need to realize that their goal isn’t only to educate or inform through content marketing but to create an emotional bond with their customers. In fact, this emotional connection may ultimately take your brand’s content marketing from simply floating around on the Internet, to being consumed, appreciated, and shared by a thriving community of brand advocates.